[image-1] The Alliance for Full Acceptance will host author Amber Cantorna in Charleston for a conversation about bridging the gap between religion and being LGBTQ on Tues. July 17.

“Keeping the Faith: Reconciling Religion and LGBTQ Identity” will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Circular Congregational Church downtown.

Religion is often used to rationalize discrimination against gay, bi, and trans people. AFFA hopes that Cantorna’s story will help shed light on a future in faith for folks who might have had their own religious beliefs turned against them after coming out.

Few people have more experience with toxic interpretations of religion than Cantorna, whose father began working at the anti-gay evangelical ministry Focus on the Family when she was three.

“She will share what it was like to be raised in a conservative Christian home and how coming out as gay shunned her from the family she loved and burdened her with a degree of devastation that nearly took her life,” according to a press release from AFFA.

Her memoir, Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God, was released in October on Fortress Press.

“Religion is so deeply connected to our culture here in the South, and for many LGBTQ folks, coming out and being their true selves also means experiencing shame, isolation and feelings of rejection in their places of worship,” said AFFA Executive Director Chase Glenn in a statement. “AFFA is working to help shift this narrative of guilt and despair to a story of hope — one where the LGBTQ community can find connection and acceptance within communities of faith.”

The Alliance for Full Acceptance is an LGBTQ nonprofit headquartered in Charleston. Most recently, the group worked with the town of Mt. Pleasant to add workplace protections for LGBTQ workers to the town’s HR policy, including updating the rules of what constitutes harassment to protect LGBTQ employees.

Cantorna’s speech will be followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public. It is being held in conjunction with a number of other pro-LGBTQ area congregations, including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Metropolitan Community Church of Charleston, Two Rivers United Methodist Church, Unity Church of Charleston, Unitarian Church in Charleston, Unity of Charleston, Saint Bonaventure Catholic Church, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, and the Religious Society of Friends.